Animal welfare activists have long advocated for elephants held captive in zoos to be retired to sanctuaries that more closely resemble their natural habitat - but the idea is finally gaining more widespread support.
Following the premature death of an elephant at a zoo in Washington state last week, the Seattle Times published a scathing editorial labeling the animal's premature passing "tragic" and "preventable," attributable, perhaps, to the rigors of decades of captivity. Watoto, an African elephant, was only 45 years old when she fell ill and was euthanized at the Woodland Park Zoo; her species often lives to age 60 in the wild.
Two other elephants remain at the zoo, and there's talk of more being added, though Watoto's death has sparked a larger discussion about whether any should be there at all.
The Seattle Times has called upon the Woodland Park Zoo, and others throughout the region, to "get out of the elephant business." This isn't a kneejerk position, rather one that takes into account the fact that "growing evidence suggests that keeping the world's largest land mammals in confined spaces, in inappropriate climates, is harmful to their health."